Northwind Pharmaceuticals, Worksite Clinic

Create Raving Fans NFL Style

Lucas Oil Stadium

Colts vs Ravens

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking my family to see the Indianapolis Colts play football against the Baltimore Ravens in Lucas Oil Stadium here in Indianapolis. As we sat among 65,000 screaming strangers, I was amazed at the energy and enthusiasm all of these people displayed for their home team. Most had no financial ties to the outcome or even knew anybody associated with either team. However, each held a distinct sense of ownership for this group of men and their coaches as they worked their way up and down the 100 yard field. The crowd roared for successes and booed at questionable or missed calls – virtually in unison. They cheered when an injured player limped from the field (for either team) and high-five’d each other in the stands when a touchdown was scored. Amongst the persistent roar and buzz of 65,000 people, I was even able to hear individuals shouting their suggestions and disappointments – as if someone on that field might actually hear their sideline coaching.

This is the crazy world of NFL Football in the United States, however, it reveals something deeper about all of us. As human beings, we all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. We yearn to be a part of something meaningful, something important. Sitting in this colossal stadium among a massive throng of people yelling and screaming, it is easy to feel a part of something bigger. For those of us trying to build an organization, there are many great lessons from professional football as well as all of the stakeholders involved in these huge events. Here are a few that occur to me as I consider the spectacle of yesterday’s contest:

  1. We All Want a Chance to Win. Though we live in a competitive world, most of us rarely participate in a directly confrontational contest that brings us face-to-face with our foe like a football game. There are winners and losers in every play on that field and it is raw, unadulterated battle. We all love to win and these games deliver that possibility in a very real, very measurable way. Does your organization present opportunities for people to win, to recognize a win and to celebrate a win?
  2. We All Want to Be a Part of Something Meaningful. In yesterday’s contest, there were two teams directly battling on the field: players, coaches and supporting organizations. However, there were 65,000 fans in the stands and countless more watching on television. This football game gave thousands of people the opportunity to be a part of something they found meaningful. A contest that entertained, delighted, enraged and involved each of those spectators. Sitting in the stands, it was impossible not to feel a part of the outcome. What are you doing to make your employees and customers feel a part of something meaningful?
  3. We All Want to Be a Part of a Team. For those of you at Lucas Oil Stadium yesterday that chose to cheer for the Indianapolis Colts, you were among 60,000+ teammates. You cheered and booed with like-minded people for nearly four hours as YOUR team fought it out with the enemy down below. You belonged to a group with a common objective and you were able to experience movement toward (or away) from that objective in real time sitting next to your teammates. You were part of the “12th Man” – the clever term given to the home crowd to foster belonging. What does your organization do to foster a sense of belonging to the team among your employees? Your customers?
  4. We All Want to Have Fun. For Colts fans, yesterday was particularly fun because we won. However, we endured the ups and downs for hours because we enjoyed the process. The big plays, the big mistakes and the disappointing calls were all part of the experience. In addition, there was music, videos, dancers, mascots and our fellow fans to keep us entertained. Alas, most of us are not in businesses that allow such a wonderful array of opportunities to entertain our customers but the point remains: we all want to have fun. What can we do in our business everyday to make things a little more entertaining for our employees and customers?

As leaders, we are challenged to tap into those common elements that draw our people together and give them a sense of belonging and purpose. Though we are not all in the entertainment business and our products rarely evoke the emotional appeal of NFL Football, there are still opportunities for us to leverage some of these lessons in our own organizations. Most of us at one time or another have enjoyed the thrill of high growth or followed that charismatic leader toward some distant peak – the trick is finding the elements that complement your culture and engaging your team to help you create the right environment.

As for me, I’ll continue to watch these games to make sure I don’t miss any other important lessons!

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